BANGKOK—A series of explosions rocked a controversial hydropower project site under construction by a Chinese firm in northern Burma, just two days after bombs killed eight in the former capital Rangoon.
“It happened at Kyinkan Longan, about 18 miles (28 kms) from Myitkyina around 3 a.m.,” Aung Wah, from the Kachin Social Network Group, said in an interview.
“The bomb went off in front of the Asia World Co. office, damaging the two-storey building. According to the villagers nearby, about four people died and about 20 were injured.”
The blasts came two days after three bomb explosions in Rangoon killed about eight people and wounded 170 during the traditional New Year water festival.
The ruling junta, which calls the country Myanmar, has blamed previous bombings on anti-government dissident groups and separate ethnic rebels seeking autonomy in Burma, which has been under military rule since 1962.
“We don't have any further details about it as yet,” Reuters quoted a government official who asked not to be identified as saying.
“The regional military commander visited the scene with three truckloads of soldiers,” Aung Wah said.
“Troops have secured the road and the river. A group of Chinese engineers and workers from the project site have left in four cars for Myitkyina."
China's state-owned China Power Investment Corp. and Burma’s private Asia World Co. jointly launched the hydropower project on the upper reaches of the giant Irrawaddy river at the end of last year
The plant is near where the Maykha and Malikha rivers join, about 920 miles (1,400 kms) north of the former capital Rangoon and near the Chinese border, the official from the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina said.
The project is expected to generate 3,600 megawatts when completed, and most of the electricity will be exported to China.
The project has caused concern among local people and environmentalists since it involves the relocation of several villages and may cause ecological damage to the Irrawaddy, the lifeblood of Burma.
In May 2005, three bombs exploded at a convention center and supermarkets in Rangoon, killing 23 people and wounding more than 160. There have been a few sporadic bombings since.
At the time, the authorities blamed ethnic rebel groups, including the Karen National Union, the Shan State Army-South, and the Karenni National Progressive Party, as well as an opposition government-in-exile known as the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma.
In 1990, the National League for Democracy, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's party, won a general election but was not allowed to take power by the military, which continues to maintain a tight grip on the country.
An election is expected to be held later in the year, but no time frame has been set. The poll has been widely derided in advance as a sham to make the country appear democratic, with the military retaining control over key institutions.
Original reporting by RFA's Burmese service. Burmese service director: Nancy Shwe. Executive producer: Susan Lavery.